My friends and I were attacked by some older boys while playing baseball in the park in the 9th grade. I knew the lead figure because we’d been on the same baseball team a few years earlier, when I was 11 and he was 12. He seemed much older than 12 at the time.
In the middle of our game a red sedan screeched to a halt along the curb, barely a backstop’s distance from our home plate, and he sprang from the passenger side. He demanded the aluminum bat in my hand. His tone and his posture portended unfriendly intentions, and yet I handed the bat over, whereupon he made as if to club me with it. I fell in a convulsive flinch.
I scrambled to my feet and clumsily walked–no, ran–backwards away from him, too scared to turn my back. My retreat led him straight to my friend, who was dumbly watching from the outfield. He’s a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel today and as tough a person as I know, but on that afternoon he cowered in fear and took a punch to the side of his head.
Other details are fuzzy. Who were the other assailants? How did it end? These I don’t clearly remember, but the identity–the name and the face–of the guy who stole my bat and clocked my friend is as clear in my mind today as it was the moment he lurched from his car that afternoon 27 years ago.
I don’t think I’ve seen him since. I looked him up on Facebook just to test if, as people say can happen, the identity of a figure from an intense emotional encounter has gotten mixed up in my memory.